Since at least the mid-1990s, dark and sinister stories have surfaced from the forests and lowlands of Puerto Rico that tell of a strange creature roaming the landscape, while striking overwhelming terror into the hearts of the populace - which is not surprising since the animal is sometimes described as having a pair of glowing red eyes, powerful, claw-like hands, razor-sharp teeth, a body not unlike that a monkey, and very occasionally even large and leathery bat-like wings. And if that were not enough, the beast is said to feed on the blood of the local animal population. Puerto Rico has a monstrous vampire in its midst. Its legendary name is the Chupacabra.
I have been to Puerto Rico on a number of occasions, and I can say for certain that theories absolutely abound with respect to the true nature of the animal. Some researchers and witnesses suggest that the beast is some form of giant-bat. Others prefer the rumor that it had extraterrestrial origins. While the most bizarre idea postulated is that the Chupacabra is the creation of a Top Secret genetic-research lab hidden deep within Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest. And, of course, there are those who think the whole thing is nonsense - a phenomenon borne purely out of a combination of mistaken identity, hoaxing, mythology and folklore.
Until a person actually spends time traveling the island and personally speaks with witnesses, government employees, police officers, and ranchers, all of who have been implicated in the mystery to varying degrees, it is incredibly difficult to appreciate precisely how much the Chupacabra mystery has become ingrained in Puerto Rican society. But, on my first trip to the island in 2004 - with Jon Downes of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology - I soon found out. It was during a wild week of investigations that we came across numerous reports of the Chupacabra variety, including that of a man named Noel.
Noel was a chicken-breeder who lived in a small village not too far from Puerto Rico's El Yunque rain-forest; however, he did not raise poultry for food. Rather, he lovingly and carefully reared the beasts specifically so that they could be used in cock-fighting tournaments in the small arena that was situated on his property.
Neither Jon nor I were fans of blood sports. We had to remember, however, that this was not our country or culture, and it was certainly not our place to tell people on the other side of the world how to live their lives just because we happened to disagree with their ways and customs.
Greetings exchanged, and with cameras and audio-equipment set up, we roamed around Noel’s small farm as he related to Jon and me a tale of genuinely spooky proportions. Some months previously, Noel had awakened during the hours of darkness on one particular morning to the sound of his chickens that were quite literally screaming down the house.
Much to his chagrin, however, Noel failed to get out of bed and waited until dawn broke to see what all the fuss had been about. He told us that he was horrified to find all of his prized birds dead. Not only were they dead, they had two small puncture wounds on their necks, and their bodies had been drained of blood.
“We need a cross, some garlic, and a wooden stake, mate,” Jon whispered to me, with a look of genuine concern on his face, as Noel pointed to the cages where the chickens had been held. But what made this particular case so intriguing and memorable was the fact that whatever had killed the chickens had first carefully and quietly opened the complex locks on each of the cages before evacuating them of blood. This suggested to Jon and me that a diabolically sophisticated degree of cunning, intelligence, and dexterity was at work.
Noel demonstrated how genuinely difficult it was to undo the locks, and openly admitted how baffled, concerned, and, even scared he had been in the aftermath of the carnage. He was in no doubt that the killings represented the presence of something truly evil in his midst. We all agreed.
Something very strange was going on. Maybe even something monstrous. And perhaps it still is...